It was a scene right out of Breaking Bad, this one taking place in San Antonio. Butcher paper taped to the windows, “Closed” sign on the door, and odd noises coming from behind that locked door.
“It looks like it's under construction or looks like a meth lab (Laughs), but we were in there getting the work done,” said Alexander Hernandez, lightweight contender living the life of a fighter in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Every obstacle, we just surmount and move on.”
At this point, Hernandez has already won. He made it Jacksonville, Florida and he’s about to get into a fistfight on Wednesday with Drew Dober. It was getting there that was the difficult part, making the 27-year-old wonder if he should have dusted off the books and went back to the world of mortgages while he waited to see when the world of fighting would open up again.
“Man, times like these make you wish you kept that license intact, for sure,” he laughs. “Those people are popping off on the refinances right now, making good coin and I'm over here closing up my gym doors as a small business owner, thinking I was gonna be fool-proof from recessions with the UFC and everything else. But whoever predicted a viral attack?”
No one, but as the world changed, the UFC and its fighters adapted and moved forward. Hernandez wasn’t going to have an April 18th date with Islam Makhachev or Omar Morales, but when a spot opened up on this Wednesday’s card with Dober, Hernandez was more than ready to get back to work. Yet as he puts it, the work never stopped.
“It really has been business as usual,” he said. “I'm fortunate to be a co-owner in my own gym and so we've got a great facility. I've got all my resources in place, got everybody moving in the same motion, it really has been smooth. And at this point in the camp, it's really just fine-tuning things anyway - very strategic, very purposeful. So I don't need these long, drawn out days. It's get in, get what you need to get done and then get out. And we've been able to do that.”
Now all that matters is the fight, and Hernandez won’t mince words when asked if there is something to be said for not only doing something a percentage of a percentage of human beings can do, but doing it as a participant in the only major sport back on a regular schedule during this unprecedented time.
“Absolutely,” he said. “After you're risked it all and put what feels like your entire life on the line, nothing else can seem nearly as marvelous. It is something, like you said, only a percentage of a percentage that could ever understand or grasp. And until you do, you could just never understand what that other life is like.”
There is glory in that, and Hernandez, as a young man who could go back to his job as a loan officer or simply focus on his gym, relishes these opportunities. Paydays are nice too, and he expects to walk away with a pair of them after facing Dober. More importantly, he’s happy to have a fresh start in 2020 after a rough 2019 campaign that saw him lose for the first time in the UFC to Donald Cerrone, then eke out a controversial decision win over Francisco Trinaldo.
“It's so funny because when things are going so well, it's hard to picture them going poorly,” he said of his reversal of fortunes after a spectacular rookie year in the UFC. It was rough, but he still enters this week’s bout with a 3-1 Octagon slate and a No. 15 ranking at 155 pounds, so there’s that. And while there is the specter of Coronavirus around everything these days, he chuckles that “This has been a unique set of challenges, but to me, Corona is no more deadly than Cerrone or Trinaldo.”
In other words, Alexander Hernandez weathered the storms of the last 16 months and is ready to get back on the road to a title. He likes the sound of that.
“You started something,” he said. “So just finish it.”
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